Steam Deck designer warns against DIY SSD upgrades

Why it matters: The Steam Deck is a lot more upgradeable/repairable than many modern devices, and that’s a good thing. However, Valve still doesn’t want you to crack open yours unless you’re well aware of the risks. The SSD, in particular, may be a tempting upgrade for many, but a good quality microSD card is just as good and much less of a hassle in comparison.

Back in July 2021, we learned that Valve’s Steam Deck has a user-replaceable internal SSD, and this was well received by the gamer community. Modern devices are increasingly hard to repair (or upgrade) and companies have been trying everything in their power to prevent users from attempting to do repairs themselves, and that still holds true to this day.

After waiting several months for orders to ship, Steam Deck buyers started receiving their handheld consoles and quickly found some rough edges on an otherwise impressive first-generation product. Some users started experiencing stick drift, so they attempted repairs on their own despite Valve’s insistence on leaving any required servicing to repair professionals.

Another pain point of the Steam Deck is that it comes with an M.2 SSD in a single-sided 2230 form factor, which is more compact than alternatives and also more energy efficient. However, such SSDs are notoriously hard to find and often pricier compared to, say, M.2 2280 and M.2 2242 models. Surface Pro 8 and Surface Laptop 4 owners who wish to repair or upgrade the storage capacity of their devices are familiar with this conundrum.

Recently, one Canadian Steam Deck owner decided to think outside the box and tried to cram an M.2 2242 SSD into the handheld. The procedure was successful, and the 512-gigabyte KingSpec PCIe 3.0 x2 SSD soon started cruising through the installation of SteamOS at speed of around 400 megabytes per second.

However, this is not without some caveats — the procedure requires moving some cables and thermal pads out of the way to make room for the longer SSD module. Furthermore, one of Steam Deck’s designers, Lawrence Yang, warned against doing this mod as you run the risk of shortening the lifespan of your handheld. Supposedly, the Steam Deck’s power management circuitry could overheat as it was never designed to handle the higher load of an M.2 2230 SSD.

Upgrading the SSD on your Steam Deck might be tempting, but you can already upgrade the storage via a microSD card slot with minimal risk and decent results. In fact, reviewers found no discernible difference between running games from the SSD versus a good microSD card. The only improvement will be in loading times, but even there you may only see a difference of a few seconds, at best.

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